Syldavia

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Syldavia
Kingdom of Syldavia
Location of

General location of Syldavia
Real-world
SeriesThe Adventures of Tintin
CreatorHergé
GenreComic strip
Fictional
Motto

Eih bennek, eih blavek.

(English: Here I am, here I stay.)
AnthemSyldavians unite! Praise our King's might: The Sceptre his right!
CapitalKlow
Language(s)Syldavian
Ethnic groupsSyldavian
GovernmentMonarchy
Population642,000 (1939)
CurrencyKhôr
 
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Syldavia
Kingdom of Syldavia
Location of

General location of Syldavia
Real-world
SeriesThe Adventures of Tintin
CreatorHergé
GenreComic strip
Fictional
Motto

Eih bennek, eih blavek.

(English: Here I am, here I stay.)
AnthemSyldavians unite! Praise our King's might: The Sceptre his right!
CapitalKlow
Language(s)Syldavian
Ethnic groupsSyldavian
GovernmentMonarchy
Population642,000 (1939)
CurrencyKhôr

Syldavia (Cyrillic: Зилдaвиa) is a fictional Balkan kingdom featured in The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé. The name was derived from TranSYLvania and MolDAVIA.[citation needed]

Contents

Overview

Syldavia is a monarchy, ruled at the time of the King Ottokar's Sceptre story by King Muskar XII. The capital is Klow, formerly Zileheroum, located at the confluence of the fictional Moltus and Wladir Rivers (after Prague, which is on the Moldau/Vltava River). Other cities named in the books are Niedzdrow, Istow, Dbrnouk, Douma and Zlip. The population of Syldavia is 642,000 with 122,000 living in Klow, suggesting the country is similar in size to Montenegro. The national airline is Syldair and the official currency is the khôr (Зилдaв хор).

Syldavia is also called "The Kingdom of the Black Pelican" and its flag is yellow with a black pelican in the center. It somewhat resembles the flag of the Holy Roman Empire, the Basque Arrano beltza, as well as the flag of Albania. However, the royal seal on the wall in King Ottokar's Sceptre bears a striking resemblance with the Coat of arms of Montenegro.

The people speak Syldavian, a Slavic-sounding West Germanic language written in Cyrillic. Curiously, the Latin alphabet is used in medieval documents, and the Cyrillic letters used are a straight transcription from the Latin letters (e.g., "sh" is written "сз" rather than "ш").

The kingdom's motto is "Eih bennek, eih blavek!" which Hergé translates as "Qui s'y frotte s'y pique" "Who rubs himself there gets stung" (in fact, the motto of Nancy, from the Latin non inultus premor, referring to its emblem, the thistle; in the British edition, the translators rendered the motto "If you gather Thistles, expect Prickles"). The motto can also be interpreted as a Brussels dialect rendering of the Dutch phrase "Hier ben ik, hier blijf ik" ("Here I am, here I stay").

Syldavians seem to be fond of mineral water, which does not go down well with the whisky-drinking Captain Haddock, one of Tintin's travelling companions.

Location and Inspiration

The exact location of Syldavia is not given in the comics, and nothing more is known than that it is located in Balkan peninsula, bordering another fictional country Borduria, and that it has an access to the sea. In Destination Moon, the trail of the Syldavian-launched rocket points to a location north of the Danube. There are various inspirations for Syldavia. As Hergé noted himself the primary inspiration was inter-war Albania, but the country's history is modeled after many Balkan countries. According to a brochure read by Tintin on his plane, Syldavia gained independence from Ottoman empire early, resembling Montenegro and Serbia. Medieval kings of Syldavia have similarities with many Balkan rulers of Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia etc. The battle of Zileheroum resembles the Battle of Kosovo and the Battle of Maritsa and rebelled nobility are similar of those who divided the Serbian empire. However Muskar I a.k.a. Hveghi may be inspired by George Kastrioti Skanderbeg, Albanian rebel and later ruler. The king's court is inspired by Montenegrin nobility. As for geography, in King Ottokar's Sceptre it is a typical Balkan country with high mountains with small towns located in plains below. Niedzdrow twin towns can be found all around Albania, northern Montenegro and southern Serbia (Sandzak region), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, south Bulgaria and so on. Syldavia has a small coastline and two known towns on it: Douma, the seaplane service harbour, and Dbrnouk, whose name might be inspired by Croatian city of Dubrovnik, although the fisherman on the brochure's photo, described as its inhabitant, is certainly Muslim typical for south Montenegrin (Ulcinj) and Albanian coast. Only the landscape around Kropow castle is more North-European, because Kropow castle is partially based on Olavinlinna (St. Olaf's) castle, in Savonlinna, Finland. In post-war stories the basic inspiration seems to be Carpathian Mountains and in Tintin and the Lake of Sharks - Macedonia. The capital Klow resembles Tirana, Sarajevo, Skopje and Podgorica. The national saint is St Vladimir and many sources claim it's Vladimir I of Kiev, but due to the Balkan likeness, the more appropriate would be Saint Jovan Vladimir, a ruler later proclaimed saint, prince of Duklja, the medieval state of Montenegro also occupying the Shkoder region in north Albania.

History

The region of Syldavia was inhabited by nomadic tribes of unknown origin until 6th century, when it was overrun by Slavs. It was conquered in 10th century by the Turks, who occupied the plains forcing the Slavs into the mountains (a historical inaccuracy, since the Balkans were conquered in 14th century). The modern Syldavia was formed in 1127 when a tribal chief called Hveghi drove away Turkish conquerors defeated at the battle of Zileheroum and took the name Muskar ruling until 1168. He reigned well, but his son Muskar II was not as good as him. Borduria conquered the country during the reign of Muskar II in 1195 until Ottokar I (his real name and title being baron Almaszout) drove them away in 1275.

King Ottokar IV became King in 1360. He took away the power of many upstart nobles. When an enemy, Baron Staszrvitch, claimed the Throne and attacked him with his sword, Ottokar struck him to the ground with his sceptre. The King then said the motto and decreed that the ruler of Syldavia must have hold on the sceptre, otherwise he would lose his authority, as it had saved his life. This custom had a power of law as late as 1939.

In 1939 Syldavia was nearly invaded by its neighbor Borduria, part of it was a plot to oust King Muskar XII. The sceptre was stolen, in the hope Muskar would abdicate. Tintin had a hand in defusing the situation by returning the sceptre just before St Vladmir's day. The Bordurians then announced they were withdrawing troops 15 miles from the borders. (The situation was very similar to that of Anschluss in Austria in 1938 though the conclusion was not the same).

King Muskar XII was a keen motorist who even had his own gun for protection. He was an actual ruler rather than a constitutional monarch (see enlightened absolutism). He himself ordered his ministers and generals to make the moves necessary to prevent the coup and the invasion. However, the king is noticeably absent from the other stories set in Syldavia such as the launch of the moon rocket. King Muskar XII was married, but his queen's name is not known.

Coat of arms

A black bird on yellow foreground.
The flag of Syldavia

The Syldavian achievement of arms is shown on the title page and page 62 of the King Ottokar's Sceptre album. It would be blazoned heraldically as follows:

Quarterly, first and fourth Or a pelican displayed sable, second and third gules two increscents in fess argent; for a crest, on a barred helmet affronty or, mantled azure doubled Or, the Royal Crown of Syldavia[1] proper; behind the shield the Royal Sceptre of Syldavia[2] and a sceptre of justice[3] in saltire; the motto "Eih bennek, eih blavek" on a scroll below the shield, pendent therefrom the badge of the Order of the Golden Pelican.[4]

Language

In their book Tintin Ketje de Bruxelles (Casterman, 2004 ISBN 2-203-01716-3), Daniel Justens and Alain Préaux have documented how the Syldavian language is based on Marols or Marollien, the dialect of the Marollen, a formerly working-class (though now trendy) quarter of Brussels. Marols, which Hergé learnt from his grandmother, is a form of Dutch incorporating many words of French origin as well as a sprinkling of Spanish. Syldavian seems to incorporate features of various Central European languages onto the Marols foundation to suit Hergé's taste, such as German, Polish, and Hungarian. It is written both in Cyrillic and in Latin script, like Serbian.

Educated Syldavians are shown speaking Tintin's language (French in the original).

Cuisine

Syldavian cuisine appears to be typical of Eastern Europe; blini, herbs, sausage and garnish are seen in the kitchen of a Syldavian restaurant in King Ottokar's Sceptre. Mineral water is an important export, and alcohol is scarce, much to Captain Haddock's disgust. When Haddock tries to bring in alcohol with him when visiting Calculus at the research facility, he is hit with high alcohol duty.

It is mentioned that a prime dish in the country is szlaszeck, described by a waiter as the hind leg of a young dog in heavy Syldavian sauce. However, this may not be true as the waiter was deliberately attempting to disturb Tintin. Szlaszeck (apparently from Polish szaszłyk, "shish kebab") is served to Tintin with mushrooms and a salad.

Atomic research

In the 1950s Syldavia had a secret but successful space program in the area of Sbrodj (named Sprodj in the English edition).

The Sprodj Atomic Research Centre, seen in Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon is located in Syldavia. The sprawling complex is located in the Zymylpathian Mountains of Syldavia (a play on the Carpathian Mountains), located close to rich deposits of uranium. The Centre is secretive and has very tightly-guarded security, including a large number of security checkpoints, helicopter surveillance, anti-aircraft artillery, and a squadron of fighter aircraft based at the facility. Work at the centre, carried out by a large team of international physicists recruited by the Syldavian government, involves research into protection from the effects of nuclear weapons, and is the base for the Syldavian space program. The facility, which seems to be entirely self-sufficient, is administered by the Director, Mr. Baxter. The Sprodj Centre has its own atomic pile for processing uranium into plutonium, and has vast facilities for the research and construction of the rocket-ship which carries Tintin and his colleagues to the moon. The gargantuan complex is last seen at the end of Explorers on the Moon, and is never again seen in the Tintin series.

In Destination Moon, the Sprodj Atomic Research Centre invites Professor Cuthbert Calculus to head its space division, and later Tintin and Captain Haddock to be part of the moon mission. In The Calculus Affair, Syldavia's secret agents compete with archrival Bordurian agents to kidnap Professor Calculus and obtain the secrets to develop sound-based weapons.

National Dance

The Blushtika, meaning "Goat Dance Twisting," as seen in Tintin and the Lake of Sharks.

National Lake

The national lake is "Pollishoff", meaning "Lake of Sharks". The inspiration for this lake seems to be various lakes in Macedonia, particularly the Ohrid lake.

National Defense

Syldavia has an extensive military, ranging from anti-aircraft guns to radar stations. The army appears to have a considerable Eastern European appearance, possibly modeled on that of Poland or Russia. It appears to have well prepared defensive systems, including radar stations, anti-aircraft installations, checkpoints and bunkers.

Capital

The capital of Syldavia is Klow. The city was founded in the 10th century by the invading Turks, and was then named Zilehorum. The Magyar nomads that lived there were forced to live in Zmyhlpathernian mountains, while the Turks themselves settled in the newly founded city located in the lush hills. In the year 1127, the nomads, led by their chief Hveghi, defeated and drove away the Turkish conquerors. Hveghi took the name Muskar, meaning "the brave" and Zileheroum was renamed to Klow, meaning "freetown" from kloho ("freedom") and ow (town). In 1168, Muskar died, and was followed by his son Muskar II. Muskar II, however, was weak, and the neighboring Bordurians took over the country.

Klow has a big variety of cultural styles. Mostly typical Yugoslavian, there is also many buildings of Austrian and Turkish descent, for example the old mosques. However, the Kropow castle's architecture and decoration is of Bohemian descent, but this could be because of the fame of Czech architecture.

As a large and relateively well-off capital city, Klow has a large museum of natural science with mounted dinosaur skeletons. Klow is told to be the Capital of Mineral Water, and they are famous for their Klowaswa (Cyrillic: Кловасва), their national mineral water, literally meaning "Klow Water" or "Water from Klow". In contrast to ordinary Syldavians, who use Cyrillic, the Royal Court in Klow uses the Latin alphabet.

In popular culture

The song Sildavia from the Spanish group La Unión (Mil Siluetas, 1984) mentions this country as a land of dreams. The Dutch group Flairck also has a song called Syldavian walz, featured in his album The Emigrant (Syldavishe walls, De Emigrant, 1989).

Sources

Tintin stories with Syldavia:

See also

Notes

  1. ^ This crown appears in the scenes in the Treasure Chamber on page 41 and others of King Ottokar's Sceptre.
  2. ^ This appears in King Ottokar's Sceptre from page 67 onwards.
  3. ^ A sceptre topped with a hand of benediction, known as the main de justice, was part of the regalia of the Kings of France.
  4. ^ Tintin is shown being invested with this insignia on page 60 of King Ottokar's Sceptre.

External links